Beginner's Telescopes

Astronomy Equipment

This telescope buying guide provides information and equipment listings for all types of refractor and reflector telescopes for all levels, from budding astronomer to the more experienced astronomer looking for a larger, more advanced 'scope.

Binoculars and telescopes and other astronomy equipment and accessories are the core of amateur astronomy. A good pair of binoculars is what introduced me to the pleasures of stargazing many moons ago and only after a couple of years scanning the skies did I graduate to a telescope. That was one of the department store 60mm telescopes we're all warned about, but my folks didn't know any better, and to a 12-year old kid, it opened up the universe.

Telescopes


Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Prism W Tripod Phone Adapter US STOCK
Refractor Astronomical Telescope Optical Prism W Tripod Phone Adapter US STOCK

$40.99
7d 17h 43m remaining
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Holder
Portable Astronomical Refractor Telescope Travel Scope w BagSmartphone Holder

$54.95
9d 18h 32m remaining
LUNT LS60THA 60mm Double Stacked Pressure Tuned B1200 Solar Telescope
LUNT LS60THA 60mm Double Stacked Pressure Tuned B1200 Solar Telescope

$2,290.00
25d 8h 49m remaining
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology Telescope Starwatcher Refractors NEW
Gskyer EQ 80900 Telescope German Technology Telescope Starwatcher Refractors NEW

$139.99
9d 10h 47m remaining
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Telescope w Motor Drive 31042 OP 31042 OP DS
Celestron AstroMaster 114EQ Telescope w Motor Drive 31042 OP 31042 OP DS

$164.99
28d 13h 8m remaining
Celestron CPC 1100 GPS XLT 11 Schmidt Cassegrain Computerized Telescope NEW
Celestron CPC 1100 GPS XLT 11 Schmidt Cassegrain Computerized Telescope NEW

$2,597.99
30d 40m remaining
Astronomical Reflector Telescope Logic Drive Tripod Newtonian Star Finder Space
Astronomical Reflector Telescope Logic Drive Tripod Newtonian Star Finder Space

$279.99
2d 14h 37m remaining
Celestron National Park Foundation PowerSeeker 114AZ Telescope
Celestron National Park Foundation PowerSeeker 114AZ Telescope

$65.29
14d 2h 7m remaining
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod  Phone Adapter For Beginners
40070 Refractor Astronomical Telescope With Tripod Phone Adapter For Beginners

$66.50
19d 18h 4m remaining

More telescopes here...

While cheap (in every sense of the word) telescopes are still to be found, recent years have seen the introduction of small but very affordable telescopes from manufacturers such as Meade and Celestron and, despite their small size, these telescopes have excellent optics that far outperform the cheap optics in my old 60mm scope from so long ago.

[ReviewAZON asin="0521598893" display="inlinepost"]

Many of these small telescopes now come with GOTO features that allow you to select an object to view from an attached handset and the telescope will automatically slew to that feature in the sky. What the ads tend to forget to mention is that in order to use this facility, the telescope must be correctly set up and aligned beforehand.

Many scopes, unfortunately, lie gathering dust in corners and wardrobes because their owners couldn't figure out how to use the thing. It's not their fault - better, and simpler, instructions should be supplied with the telescopes. But for those who can work with such an instrument, a wealth of celestial objects are available for viewing that would be quite difficult to find otherwise.


GoTo Telescopes

Some old hands in astronomy societies have welcomed the new technology openly, others have decried its introduction as it stops newcomers from learning their way around the skies using star hopping. In some ways, they see that there must be a little pain in finding an object before you can have the pleasure of viewing it. I suppose it's a bit like the difference between being bussed to Machu Pichu or going on a five-hour hike up the mountain to see it. Which would you choose? If the hike is your cup-of-tea, then star-hopping is for you.

Personally, I think the introduction of GoTo Mounts has been a very positive development and has made the hidden beauty of the night sky accessible to many more people. If you've bought a small telescope with an integrated GOTO mount yourself, but are unsure of how to use it or the best objects to view, go along to your local astronomy society or club and ask their help. They'll be only too willing to lend a helping hand.

Read the Choosing a Telescope article if you'd like to know more about the different types of telescope that are available and what might best suit your needs.

Eyepieces


125 HD 4 10 23mm Wide Angle 62 Aspheric Telescope Eyepieces Set For Astronomy
125 HD 4 10 23mm Wide Angle 62 Aspheric Telescope Eyepieces Set For Astronomy

$23.65
24d 2h 35m remaining
NEW 15mm Meade Series 4000 Super Plossl telescope eyepiece
NEW 15mm Meade Series 4000 Super Plossl telescope eyepiece

$24.88
29d 1m remaining
125 SWA 58 Degree 25mm Planetary Eyepiece For Astronomical Telescope US SHIP
125 SWA 58 Degree 25mm Planetary Eyepiece For Astronomical Telescope US SHIP

$33.00
14d 16h 11m remaining
SVBONY125 62Eyepieces Kits 4 10 23mm Fully Coated for Astronomic Telescope US
SVBONY125 62Eyepieces Kits 4 10 23mm Fully Coated for Astronomic Telescope US

$22.74
24d 5h 44m remaining
Celestron 125 32mm Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Multi coated Excellent Condit
Celestron 125 32mm Plossl Telescope Eyepiece Multi coated Excellent Condit

$24.95
28d 6h 50m remaining
125 Plossl Eyepiece Set 4 10 25mm+2X Barlow Lens For Astronomical Telescope US
125 Plossl Eyepiece Set 4 10 25mm+2X Barlow Lens For Astronomical Telescope US

$36.39
29d 8h 57m remaining
SVBONY 125 Plossl Eyepiece 40mm Green Coated FC For Astronomical Telescope US
SVBONY 125 Plossl Eyepiece 40mm Green Coated FC For Astronomical Telescope US

$15.46
5d 16h 19m remaining
Meade Series 4000 67mm Ultra Wide Angle eyepiece 125 Japan for Telescope
Meade Series 4000 67mm Ultra Wide Angle eyepiece 125 Japan for Telescope

$77.00 (23 Bids)
5h 32m remaining
965 3 Telescope Eyepiece 6mm 125mm 20mm  2x Shorty Barlow Kit NEW
965 3 Telescope Eyepiece 6mm 125mm 20mm 2x Shorty Barlow Kit NEW

$17.95
22d 5h 23m remaining

More eyepieces here...


Eyepieces

You should have a selection of eyepieces to use with your telescope to allow close-up views or wide-field views. Planets require small diameter eyepieces to see surface detail whereas larger subjects, like the Pleiades and other large star clusters require wide-field views. Pretty much any eyepiece can be used to get a good view of the Moon or close-up views of it.

Eyepieces range from about 3mm to 40mm (i.e. the glass in them, not the diameter of the eyepiece itself!) and come in three fittings: 0.965", 1.25" and 2" (for high-end telescopes). The 0.965" fitting is seldom used these days but older telescopes may have taken eyepieces of this size. There are also different types of eyepiece: Plossl, Erfle, Kellner, Orthoscopic, wide-angle, etc. The magnification an eyepiece provides depends on the focal length of your telescope - divide the telescope focal length by the eyepiece size to get the magnification. A typical refractor has a focal length of about 900mm. A 26mm eyepiece would provide a magnification of 34x with this scope. Used with a telescope with a 2000mm focal length, the magnification is 77x.

There's another feature of eyepieces called the Field of View. Basically, this is how big an area of sky is seen through the eyepiece. The bigger the field of view, the more can be seen. How much of the sky is seen depends on the eyepiece diameter and the focal length of the telescope. Wide-angle eyepieces (82 degrees field of view, for example) tend to be quite expensive. Average eyepieces, such as Plossls, have about a 50 degree field of view.

Binoculars


Day Night 180x100 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 180x100 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$32.99
5d 8m remaining
Celestron Skymaster Astronomy and Stargazing Binoculars 25x70
Celestron Skymaster Astronomy and Stargazing Binoculars 25x70

$69.91
4d 23m remaining
Celestron 71008 SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars Black NEW HOT
Celestron 71008 SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars Black NEW HOT

$66.30
12d 11h 25m remaining
Orion 51464 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Black Brand New open box
Orion 51464 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Black Brand New open box

$116.50
27d 22h 49m remaining
Day Night 60x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping
Day Night 60x50 Military Army Zoom Powerful Binoculars Optics Hunting Camping

$47.99
12d 9h 9m remaining
Vortex Diamondback DB 207 12x50mm Binoculars in Army Green NEW Free S
Vortex Diamondback DB 207 12x50mm Binoculars in Army Green NEW Free S

$191.39
28d 4h 7m remaining
180x100 BAK4 Military Binoculars Day Night Optics Hunting Camping High Power
180x100 BAK4 Military Binoculars Day Night Optics Hunting Camping High Power

$32.99
28d 4h 46m remaining
Celestron 71347 Outland X 10x42 Binocular w 10x Magnification Perfect Condition
Celestron 71347 Outland X 10x42 Binocular w 10x Magnification Perfect Condition

$55.45
30d 4h 7m remaining
Pentax 12x24 UCF G Compact Binoculars Birding Hiking Hunting Astronomy 12 Power
Pentax 12x24 UCF G Compact Binoculars Birding Hiking Hunting Astronomy 12 Power

$29.50
30d 5h 41m remaining

More astronomy binoculars here...


Astronomy Binoculars

While this discussion has centered mostly on telescopes, binoculars have a role to play in astronomy as well. A quality pair of binoculars costs less than a telescope and is a good entry point for someone familiarising themselves with the sky. They don't offer the same magnifications as a telescope (but magnification isn't everything) but they do show a much wider field of view which makes it easier to navigate across the sky. Because of this wider field of view, you also get to see the 'big' picture. And, because you're using both eyes, there's less eyestrain.

You can get binocular viewers for telescopes and those who use them (even though they cost a few hundred dollars and you need two of every eyepiece) swear by them (rather than at them!). A typical set of binoculars will be 10x50s (front lenses 50mm across, with a 10x magnification). More powerful models are available - 20x60s are available from $150 upwards and you can get 20x80s for as little as $215.

These binoculars are quite heavy and you can tire easily pointing them skyward for any length of time. Also, because of their higher magnification, any shake in your hands will also be magnified and stars will dart around in the view. For long-duration viewing, you'd be advised to get a tripod and a binocular tripod adapter which lets you securely mount the binoculars on it.

Binoculars are also great for looking at large scale celestial objects such as comets. Looking at the Moon through 20x binoculars brings it close enough to see topography but also, you'll see it in three dimensions, something lacking when looking through the eyepiece at a telescope. You can whip out a pair of binoculars much more quickly than setting up a telescope so if you have very changeable weather where you live, they might be a better option for sky viewing. Of course, you can throw a pair of binoculars into your luggage very easily and view the sky from your holiday destination with ease.